Surface with Windows RT debuts to mixed reviews, most complain about the lack of quality apps

By on October 24, 2012, 10:30 AM

Microsoft's first PC ever, the Surface tablet is set for launch this Friday, right after Windows 8 is also made available to the public. However until recently a few key aspects of the product remained under wraps, including pricing, which was disclosed last week to start at $499 for a 32GB Surface tablet without any of the keyboard covers -- a major aspect of what makes the Surface an innovative device.

A first round of reviews has hit the web, with mixed reactions on whether the Surface is good enough at this stage to bring true competition to the iPad(s) and Android tablets alike. On the positive side, most reviewers seem to agree the Surface is a solidly engineered piece of hardware, the covers work relatively well, and surprisingly Windows RT is not the resource hog some expected. Office RT is also cited as one of the Surface's highlights, not only because it works well but because it's included in the price of the tablet.

By far the most common complaint came on the software side, due to a lack of quality apps on the Windows Store. This perceived weakness of the WinRT platform is considered a huge dealbreaker considering competing products, especially iOS devices that the Surface seems to be targeting, have a more ample library of applications you can try or buy. It's ironic how this was the exact same reason Windows was used to be favored over Macs a decade ago.

Ultimately, the lack of applications and thus the overall ecosystem was factored in to evaluate the Surface RT's 'value'. At $630+ with either of the keyboard covers, no one considers Surface RT tablets to be cheap but rather a steep entry for a tablet that holds a lot of promise but is not there yet to go against the defacto leader in the tablet market.

What the reviewers said:

Gizmodo: "The Surface, with an obligatory Touch Cover, is $600. That's a lot of money. Especially given that it's no laptop replacement, no matter how it looks or what Microsoft says. It's a tablet-plus, priced right alongside the iPad and in most ways inferior."

Anandtech: "If you're ok being an early adopter, and ok dealing with the fact that mobile devices are still being significantly revved every year, Surface is worth your consideration. If you've wanted a tablet that could begin to bridge the content consumption and productivity divide, Surface is it."

Engadget: "The Microsoft Surface with Windows RT's $499 starting MSRP means those thinking about making the investment here will be carefully cross-shopping against same-priced offerings from Apple, ASUS and others. Where does this one rate? Very well -- but very differently."

LaptopMag: "Ultimately, the Surface will succeed or fail based on the quality of the apps around it. Right now, $599 (the minimum cost with Touch Cover) is a lot to spend on a fledgling ecosystem. However, with the power of Microsoft and Nvidia behind it, we believe we will see more compelling apps for Windows RT arrive within the next few weeks."




User Comments: 26

Got something to say? Post a comment
treeski treeski said:

I'm not very well versed as far as tablet apps are concerned. What are some of the big name, must have apps for many people when looking at tablets?

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Who remembers the $199 price rumor?

1 person liked this |
Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

That depends on what you want to do with your tablet, e.g. entertainment vs. productivity. I still prefer my PC for both, but there's people who now rely on tablets for reading, browsing the web, email, streaming content or gaming. Like I said, I still prefer my laptop/desktop for all of those and beyond, but sales figures are overwhelming for iPads.

Guest said:

My wife has Kindle Fire HD ( she reads books and play scrabble on it) and I have an ASUS transformer. When I look at apps available in Google Play, I don't get it. Most are just junky little apps. I don't see a lot of useful stuff.

I bought the ASUS because I'm a retired computer consultant and love tech stuff. It just sits there sucking down energy keeping the battery charged ( not the smartest purchase).

I have seen stuff on Apples app store and again I don't see much useful stuff.

I also have an ASUS EP121 tablet (Windows 7) and used it a lot when I was working and carry it with me occasionally as a mobile PC. I will probably upgrade it to WIN8

Maybe it is me, but I don't see the big deal about Ipad or Android tablets.

treeski treeski said:

That depends on what you want to do with your tablet, e.g. entertainment vs. productivity. I still prefer my PC for both, but there's people who now rely on tablets for reading, browsing the web, email, streaming content or gaming. Like I said, I still prefer my laptop/desktop for all of those and beyond, but sales figures are overwhelming for iPads.

Oh, I'm sure, but if the biggest complaint of Win8 RT (and by extension, Surface RT) is the lack of apps... what's missing? I have a Windows Phone and with the recently added Chase app, I have pretty much everything I've been waiting for. That being said, I know there are a bunch of big names that others still want... Hulu, Draw Something, Instagram, Angry Birds x etc.

I have no idea what the equivalent big names are for tablets.

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

I bought my Transformer Infinity a few weeks ago and I am still in love with it. I am a grad student and I need access to Microsoft Office quite often. Tablets still lack a suitable replacement for Powerpoint. I know there are about 50 versions of Office in the Google Play store, but NONE of them do transitions and equation editor. I am a chemist...those things (especially the equation editor) are very important to me. I solved this problem by purchasing the Splashtop GamePad THD app. I can connect to my ungodly fast gaming PC from campus now and completely control it. Battlefield 3 can now be played from campus in my free time using my 5ghz i5 and my gtx 680. Considering the Transformer Infinity has a full keyboard dock and a usb outlet, I can connect a mouse or an xbox controller. That's winning

Guest said:

Julio Franco - I found question from @treeski interesting. You said it misses some of the very important and high quality apps. So, which are those? I am sure when you said it is missing those apps you would know which are those apps? In your reply instead of saying which are those apps you said you rather prefer PC! :-)

Btw, I am iPad user and a huge Apple fan, just to clarify.

Guest said:

I think the point of a tablet is to have something small you can carry around easily and place in your lap, check out the web and play a few games. You don't need an even table to set the thing up. A PC is something with a keyboard and separate monitor which is used for business productivity.

So what is the surface? If you get the keyboard and cover, you need to set it up like a PC on a table / even surface. You can't really casually play games in that setup while waiting in the doctor's office, or waiting for my daughters dance class to finish. It really isn't powerful enough to use as a PC. And if you don't buy the cover/keyboard, it is just like any other tablet but with fewer apps.

I think it is an interesting idea and am not knocking it. I just don't see its purpose yet.

howzz1854 said:

I was really excited about the RT 8 tablet, until I saw the price. consider what Nexus 7 and Ipad mini is going for. microsoft really needs a more affordable option for the consumers this holiday season.

1 person liked this | treeski treeski said:

I was really excited about the RT 8 tablet, until I saw the price. consider what Nexus 7 and Ipad mini is going for. microsoft really needs a more affordable option for the consumers this holiday season.

I'm still hoping that other OEMs will fill this gap.

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

I was really excited about the RT 8 tablet, until I saw the price. consider what Nexus 7 and Ipad mini is going for. microsoft really needs a more affordable option for the consumers this holiday season.

I'm still hoping that other OEMs will fill this gap.

If Microsoft releases Office for android before Christmas, it'll be shooting themselves in the foot. Android tablets are sooooo much cheaper and still work well (Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7, etc). I just want Office on my Transformer Infinity

1 person liked this | MilwaukeeMike said:

There's a song from my childhood...'One of these things just doesn't belong here...' Gizmodo's review fits right into it. Maybe that site is all opinion and no objectivity, but there are glaring holes in the review. They completely rip on the touch cover because they don't like typing on it, but don't discuss the type cover at all, which is FOR people who don't like the touch cover.

They title their sections Like and No Like.... Elmo-esque grammar aside... do people really only want to read what some dude liked?

Anandtech on the other hand explains the surface perfectly, so we can decide if we would like it.

ikesmasher said:

Microsoft needed to make something with a quite distinct advantage over other tablets (dont ask me what it could be.) they failed. It will sell, but not as much as they hope.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Microsoft needed to make something with a quite distinct advantage over other tablets (dont ask me what it could be.) they failed. It will sell, but not as much as they hope.

It's completely different than other tablets though... it has a magnetically attachable keyboard, you can view apps side by side at once, and it comes with Office.

Yes, it's not as good at content consumption as your iPad. It has a lower res screen and far fewer apps. Yes, it's not as good as your ultrabook at content creation since it's not running a full version of windows and the screen is 'only' 10 inches. But it's so much better at creation than your ipad that you can hardly compare the two, and it's so much more convenient at consumption than your ultrabook that you wouldn't compare the two.

It does both better than anyone...From Anandtech 'Windows RT/8 is an almost perfect marriage of new mobile world simplicity with the flexibility that we?ve enjoyed from Windows for ages'

I'll bet it sells very well.

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

Microsoft needed to make something with a quite distinct advantage over other tablets (dont ask me what it could be.) they failed. It will sell, but not as much as they hope.

They made something that is a distinct advantage. There is (supposedly) a direct connection between the Surface and Windows 8 on a computer. The cohesion is supposed to be seemless. I have yet to see how they integrated a table with a desktop.

However, as stated in my previous post, the Surface is the only tablet with a legitimate copy of Microsoft Office. I have an Infinity and I can tell you from experience that the other office apps for android are highly flawed.

ikesmasher said:

It's completely different than other tablets though... it has a magnetically attachable keyboard, you can view apps side by side at once, and it comes with Office.

I fail to see how that makes it completely different from other tablets..for $300, maybe, id be all over this, but for $600...there are far better options.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I find the quantity of apps tends to be exaggerated, but I understand why it was added in towards the 'value', especially with some big named ones missing. However, my biggest concern is still the price, as anyone wanting to experience the whole package with a keyboard will be spending a lot.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

I too find $160 for the keyboard ridiculous. High-end machanical keyboards cost this much.

Not sure if I'm the only one, or if majority people thing this way, but: the touch-cover isn't an accessory. It's part of the Surface (it was revealed this way, hyped this way, always seen this way with a cover).

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

I too find $160 for the keyboard ridiculous. High-end machanical keyboards cost this much.

Not sure if I'm the only one, or if majority people thing this way, but: the touch-cover isn't an accessory. It's part of the Surface (it was revealed this way, hyped this way, always seen this way with a cover).

You know the cover is only $100, right?

Teko03 said:

I think the point of a tablet is to have something small you can carry around easily and place in your lap, check out the web and play a few games. You don't need an even table to set the thing up. A PC is something with a keyboard and separate monitor which is used for business productivity.

So what is the surface? If you get the keyboard and cover, you need to set it up like a PC on a table / even surface. You can't really casually play games in that setup while waiting in the doctor's office, or waiting for my daughters dance class to finish. It really isn't powerful enough to use as a PC. And if you don't buy the cover/keyboard, it is just like any other tablet but with fewer apps.

I think it is an interesting idea and am not knocking it. I just don't see its purpose yet.

It's like no one (including you & all the reviewers) gets that the keyboard & kickstand feature of the laptop is a capability, NOT a requirement. It;s simple an accessory being used an a selling point, you'll be holding this tablet just like any other without the touch cover or kick stand being deployed. The way reviewers are rating the usability of the Surface with Windows RT and like saying the iPhone 4S is rendered useless because in loud area Siri can't hear you. Siri was a highlighted feature for selling units, most iPhone users I know don't even use Siri.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

@Julio

Personally I'm more interested in Surface Pro. Once its get out and one can compare its performance in real world situation, it may be a more worthy option, but that is just my thought.

I think in couple of years' time Surface Pro may have even more compelling case, provided, that rumor of a <10W Haswell part turn out to be true. But then again IF we eventually see a <10W Haswell (or even Broadwell) SoC, I really don't see any more compelling reason for an ARM based windows tablet.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

You know the cover is only $100, right?

$100 is not a lot?

Also, our Australian prices are:

Touch - $140,

Type - $150

..not sure where I got $160 from.

1 person liked this | slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

You know the cover is only $100, right?

Point still stands, $100 gets you a mechanical keyboard.

MS really should have included the keyboard in the price instead of trying to do an Apple and overcharge horrendously for accessories. The TouchCover probably only costs a few $ to manufacture and a lot more people would be tempted to get one if it was included at $499.

Guest said:

What apps are you expecting..

I dont remember Apple or google launching with any "Big name apps"..

The store only opened this morning, give them a chance.

Everyone seems to have just rolled over and decided that the more expensive Apple can do no wrong.

seriously,... Microsoft didn't become as big as they are through failing..

Guest said:

You know the cover is only $100, right?

Still too damn much!!

Guest said:

Ok, I'm the first to say I was disappointed with the $499 price. Currently I don't own a tablet, but interested to see what would actually help me work (I don't care about Angry Birds, silly "social" apps, or Temple Run). But to say that $600 is overpriced and that others do it better is either complete ignorance or utter fanboyism. Before you continue extolling your favorite device's wonderfulness, let us delve into a fact check. Win8 Surface with Keyboard is $599 and 32GB mem, right? Using the most popular device out there with similar specs, iPad 3rd gen with 32GB and external keyboard is how much? $649. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is $549. Asus Transformer is $499. Asus Transformer only matches on the keyboard, but there are many complaints about build quality that the other tablets don't suffer from.

As for what is more capable? Some of that is opinion. Most of that is based on available apps. But for those that actually want to WORK on it will love Office with OneNote builtin a massive advantage.

That said, iPad mini, Kindle Fire, and the Nexus 7 ARE NOT IN THE SAME CATEGORY.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.